Thursday, June 12, 2014

Better Homes and Gardens



I’m trying to get work done while taking a meeting that could very well determine what I do next. He produces an iPhone wrapped in an enormous wad of $20 bills. He’s here out of obligation and seems uninterested in what he actually suggested we talk about. I’m not quite sure why he’s even here or why he bothered in the first place. If he’s trying to feel me out, it’s failing and all I get a sense of is just how overpaid he is and how underpaid how I am. He’s been gone for about 20 minutes right now, and I can’t say he made much of an impression while he was still here. I had more important things to worry about. I was actively forgetting his ideas, anyway. I don’t think it was a secret that neither of us was exactly feeling a potential working partnership, especially when I couldn’t stop thinking about all the other work I could be getting done.

I’m stressed, but when am I not stressed? I actually meant to write something in here a long time ago, but several potential pieces and drafts were scrapped due to lack of interest, time constraints, or their sudden irrelevance. There’s a lot to update. A lot has happened since the last time I posted over here. Obviously, I’m taking meetings on things which means something good has to be happening, but on the other hand I’m writing in here which usually means bad news is on the way. The bad news isn’t so much bad as it is annoying and the good news is actually quite good. There will actually be a lot more explaining of things instead of a lot of bitching, and once I do get around to the good news I trust you that it will be worth your time sticking around.

So when you guys last left this blog I was in a pretty dark place. I’m almost out of it, or at least – knock on wood – I will be the beginning of next week. I didn’t want to draw too much attention to it, but the end of April and the entirety of May was a rough, soul crushing ordeal from which I am only now slowly starting to crawl out of. If I went into specifics of what I was going through (and some of you know and I really have no huge desire to rehash it all in pathetic detail), you would probably be amazed that I got any work done. Some things happened that were out of my hands. Some things happened that I had no control over, some things I botched on my own, and some things were just plain old bad timing.

I kind of snapped, and arguably today is a worse day in general than the day everything went to hell a couple of months ago. Only this time, I’m a lot calmer about things and accepting that I can’t do everything on my own. The past few weeks have come with a lot more self confidence that I can pull through things. The best art often comes from people at their lowest and so on and so forth, so with that in mind (and since I announced it on Facebook and Twitter last week) I guess I should open up about what I created in my very spare amount of down time over the past few months in secret.

Recently, I decided that I wanted to get back into creating stuff instead of only writing about things that I had created. It’s not that I dislike my job or that it’s unfulfilling, but it’s certainly overwhelming when done in volume. I just finished two books (you probably know about the one, which I am now proud to say has a firm release date of November 12th, but the other I kept kind of quiet, for reasons you’ll find out in a moment), but I wanted to do something else and go back to something I haven’t done in approximately 12 years now.

I wrote a screenplay that I am 80% sure I will be directing. It’s an adaptation of an essay that I wrote, but have not yet published. 

For legal reasons I have to be somewhat guarded and cagey about the specifics at this time, but here are a few facts that I can let slip in lieu of a formal announcement to come in the future:

1. It will be a dramatic feature. I was quite proud of it, and I showed it to a screenwriter friend and basically said, “Hey, I think there’s something here, but I don’t really have time to flesh it out myself.” He looked at it and said he wanted to give it a go. Ultimately, as with everything else in life, neither of us initially had time to turn it into a full length screenplay. BUT he did deliver a 30 page outline that blew me away and made writing the actual screenplay a breeze. I finished the whole thing in about a week.

2. Before the script was finished, the two of us had talked to a few people about financing, and while we have some, we will be doing a Kickstarter later in the year to make up some outstanding funds. One of the perks will be 

3. I’m currently meeting with directors and feeling people out at the moment. This is a very personal project for me, and while I’m not opposed to directing the film, I want to see if someone might be able to bring a fresh spin to the material.
 
4. Production will start in early 2015. Don’t ask me about a release because I have no clue.
 
5. Don’t ask me about casting, either, since I can’t tell you the story.

6. I can tell you that one of the Kickstarter rewards, however, will be the new collection of essays and short stories that I haven’t yet published, and it will include the story for the film.

7. The story it is based on is titled Better Homes and Gardens. The film, for obvious reasons, will not be titled Better Homes and Gardens. Just assume that’s a code name for what I’m working on.

8. A formal announcement of the project and everyone involved will be made in September around TIFF once we have everything in place and are ready to move forward.

9. The film is based on a true story and I’m essentially the main character.

10. No, I will not play myself. (or at least I would severely doubt that will happen)

So yeah, there’s a new book and a new movie on the way, which is great since my computer today has decided to die horribly. USB ports aren’t working. I can’t copy and paste anything. Sound card pretty much shot. Photoshop acting wonky. I don’t have money to bring it in at the moment since I just made a “major life purchase.” 

So sadly no reviews this week or interviews, which sucks but I physically do not have a way to get work done this week, and since I’m the only person around this week and the only person who actually saw the films that are being talked about, my hands are tied. It sucks and I feel like a massive loser for letting people down this week, but I wanted to let you all know that things certainly suck at this moment, but the long term outlook isn’t dire and there are awesome things just on the horizon.

Also, since doing this post on the fly is the only thing I can actually get done today with my computer as boned as it is, I figured an update was in order.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday



I haven’t eaten. I’ve barely slept. I’m weak and exhausted and I should be doing an interview. Instead, I am a catatonic mess staring off into space, too shaken and crushed to know what to do next. Part of me wants to continue like nothing has happened and to keep pushing. Part of me wants to go for a walk. Part of me wants that walk to continue until I can’t walk anymore. Part of me wants to kill myself. Part of me wants to do the dishes. Part of me wants the curl up in a ball on the floor and waste away into nothing and hope that no one ever notices. I can’t tell if this is burning out or fading away, and even worse I can’t tell which is worse.

I had plans. I had such grand plans. I thought they were achievable. I bluffed and lied and worked my ass off harder than anyone else I knew to try and achieve them. They can’t be achieved. I don’t have the means. I barely have the ability. I tried. I tried so hard. I wanted it so badly. I thought I could make a difference. I never considered myself as valid. I never considered anything. I've been working so hard that today hits with the force of a car crash that was moving at the speed of light.

While I was in a screening and over the course of three hours my life has descended into a hell from which there is no escape. Some of it I created, and I’m sorry for that. Other things have also happened in the past three hours that I had no control over and it can just be chalked up to chance. It wasn’t one thing. It was five separate and very ill timed things to happen all at once, like the universe was waiting for the right time to strike a final blow in tandem. Timing is so fickle. You can go decades without tragedy or have everything you love taken away from you faster than the blink of an eye.

Whatever it is I don’t know how to proceed. All I know is you are all better off without me. I am scaring myself. I hate what I have become. There’s nothing left in the tank at all. I might live through the night. I might not. I don’t want this to be a goodbye letter because writing such a letter and not following through is silly. I did that before and I regret it. I am so full of regret right now that I don’t want to add to it.

Know that no matter what you think of me, I loved you all. Some of you know that. Some of you I wish I said it to more often. This might not be goodbye forever, but it will be goodbye for a very long time.
Today is the kind of day from which there are no happy endings. I physically can’t talk about any of it. I can’t even bring the words to say them to an empty room with no one around. I’ve let you all down for the last time. I’ve let myself down for the last time.

I want to thank you that have passed through my life so far for making it a warmer place. Even on a cold and unseasonable day – the second worst day of my entire life, which says quite a lot – I remember the good.
Remembering the good only makes today harder. No, I didn’t commit a scandalous crime that will suddenly disgust all of you. It’s simply that life is too hard. It’s always been hard for me. I have very fucked up survival instincts. I hate being dramatic. I hate it so much. I have so much I still wanted to do.

I don’t deserve nice things. I don’t deserve to be around good people. I deserve the darkest pit I can find. It’s not even because of the things in life I deserve to be punished for or that I’ve done wrong, but from everything else in the world that has ever hurt me.

This is the worst thing I have ever written. I’m sorry it wasn’t better. I’m sorry a lot of things weren’t better. At least you should all know that the final movie I saw/will be seeing for a very long time was a good one.
Goodbye for now, but hopefully not forever. Stay warm for me. Keep making the world a better place. Maybe I’ll see you soon. I need time, the one thing I have none of. I have nothing left to give and I refuse to take anything else from anyone. I need to deliberate. I need quiet. I need something to believe in. I need solutions that can’t possibly come for a very long time. I need to get my patience back. I need to survive. I don’t want to die, but at this point I don’t know what else to do.

Just don’t be mad. Not today. Don’t yell at me or get upset. It will break my heart into a thousand pieces. I can’t take any anger from others or anger from myself. If you do see me or you want to talk to me, don’t approach me from that direction. Not today. Not with everything happening. This is a day of reckoning. One that determines where the rest of my life goes.

I love you.

-Andrew

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Harbinger



There I was sitting on the subway with an unopened bottle of wine between my legs when they walked onto the subway. They were a couple who said nothing, but told a story of a thousand unhappy words. It was a couple that was as beautiful to look at as they were uncomfortable to behold.

They got on right before the doors were about to close, mere seconds before the BING BING BONG that signalled to passengers to stand clear. They took their positions on either side of the door, standing instead of sitting and not anywhere close to each other. It was one hour after Valentine’s Day, that gray area where showing grand romantic gestures can finally be seen as something less than a commercially aided thing to do. And yet, here, there was no romance, but a glimmer of one that might have been.

They were clearly together. They also clearly weren’t talking, with their body language telling volumes. The very fact that they were going more than one stop and they decided to stand instead of sit suggested a severe tension that permeated the entire, nearly silent subway car. Not only were they standing on either side of a door, but they also refused to sit side by side. Heck, they even refused to sit in the same vicinity of one another. The fact that they were still mere feet away from each other and not ever looking each other in the eye screamed “break up waiting to happen.”

They were clearly coming from a date and he had clearly done something wrong. What he did, I’ll never know, but I knew her look very well. It was one of complete disappointment in every possible way.

She looked great with the exception of the sad look on her face. Beautiful black dress just past the knees, high heels with intricate leather straps criss-crossing every which way, an elegant wintry pea coat.

He looked okay, I guess. He was clean. Clean shaven, clean cut, tight leather jacket, tight jeans, and an oddly ratty pair of sneakers that seemed out of place. His hair was done in the neatest of low-key pompadours, the kind where you actually might be able to play it off like you don’t have any product in your hair.

She never looked up at him, not once. She looked at his feet the entire time; at those ugly ratty trainers that no amount of rationalization could excuse given the effort she put into her look. She wrung her hands together in front of her nervously; one hand going forward and back over the other as if it were the only thing stopping her from screaming at the man across the doorway from her. Or perhaps she already said what she needed to say.

Maybe his appearance was skewed by what I saw on his face: the slightest bit of an indignant smirk. The kind of smirk that suggests he did nothing wrong but actually means that he did everything wrong and he’s too full of himself to admit it. No one gets as sad as this girl across from him if the other person didn’t screw up royally. He also never looked her in the eye. He never even so much as looked her in the eye, possibly afraid that she might look up and burn a hole through him. He fixated on her hands and the constant fidgeting.

I couldn’t look away. Part of me wanted to know more, but I was on my way to a date. It was a date I never even wanted to go on in the first place. It wasn’t my place, but I needed to know what was happening. Everything about the situation was so profound that I couldn’t let it go. It was burned into my memory for as long as I can remember now.

They got off one stop before I did, seven or eight stops after they got on the subway. He kinds of let out an incredulous, scoffing gasp of air as he turned and left the car. She hesitated. She made the move towards the door and stopped dead in her tracks. It was only seconds, but it might as well have been a full on delay on the subway from how long it looked. He never once looked back at the train on the tracks below, already halfway up the escalator when she finally decided to follow him.

I wanted so badly to tell her not to go. I’m not in the business of “saving” people from shitty situations or trying to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong, but there was something that definitely wasn’t right. She seems like she needed to talk to someone. Maybe it wasn’t time for an intervention from a complete stranger, but she needed something and I sure hoped that she would find it soon and hopefully without the smirking bro that never so much as gave her a second glance.

I also wish she didn’t leave because I was already hating myself for where I was going. She called me already drunk and wanted some company. I have no idea why I was doing this. I was weak and working so hard that I couldn’t see straight. Maybe a date was what I needed.

What I ended up going to couldn’t be seen as a date or even a hangout. It was me watching her watch videos online while I sipped wine I didn’t even want to drink in the first place. I don’t even know why I left the house. I was wasting my time.

She asked me to spend the night, but pretty much just so I could make sure she woke up on time in the morning to go to something she had to do. I didn’t really care what it was. I had stopped paying attention.

Nothing happened. I went to sleep several feet away from her on the couch, playing glorified alarm clock so she could get up in time in the morning. I don't think she realized I didn't want to be in the same bed as her.

And all night I thought about that distance.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dear Andy... Sincerely, Me



I wanted to write something much more about this, but given that it’s Bell Let’s Talk Day and I’ll be seeing quite a few tweets about it throughout the day, I just wanted to chime in with my own personal experiences and why it’s important to  be understanding of mental health problems and why if you feel like you have a problem that you need to talk to someone. (Bell Let’s Talk Day is a Canadian telecom initiative designed to get people talking about mental health issues by donating money from every text message sent or call made on Bell services to worthy mental health organizations or for every Tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, for those of you outside Canada.)

I have tried to kill myself four times in my life, and twice I was dangerously close. The last time was in 2006, and I am happy to say that I haven’t attempted anything as seriously foolish as that. These moments were caused by varieties of stressors, both internal and external and often compounded by the fact that I had bipolar disorder that went undiagnosed until that last attempt that nearly killed me. So if you are feeling worthless, unloved, hated, ashamed, pained, sad, grief stricken, confused, angry at yourself, or just generally wondering what the point of life is, trust me when I say that I have been there. I struggle every day, some more than others, but I have sought help and I have a pretty great support system in place.

Now even though I haven’t attempted suicide since 2006, it would be foolish to say that I haven’t thought about it since then. In truth, I have thought about it several times since then, and deep down I always live with the deathly fear that I could try something like that again and make things worse. Those three attempts were all borne from something massively life changing, but I was able to move on. Heck, as a whole, my life has in almost every possible way gotten worse since 2006 aside from landing a pretty damn great job and making a ton of new friends. So if you’re looking for someone to tell you “it’s going to get better” or “it’s darkest before the dawn,” don’t look at me. I can’t stand that shit and when someone tells it to me without any other useful insight, I just smile and nod.

I’m not here to tell you “it gets better.” Quite often unless by some miracle you hit the lottery or find a genie’s lamp it will take an incredible amount of work to get to a point where if you suffer from chronic depression where you can say “Yes, everything is fine now.” That comes from within, not from without. There’s a reason why addiction is classified as a type of mental illness: it’s because coming back from both is commiserate on the subject actively wanting to change their life for the better. And that’s a hard thing to do.

The first key to staying on the right track is to talk to people and to find an outlet. There’s no substitute for talking to people. Absolutely none. And let’s be honest, if you are depressed, there’s a certain amount of shame in that. It could be something that you did that’s causing this depression. Sometimes when you talk to people, you won’t always hear what you want to hear. Sometimes, in those rare moments of pure clarity, you’ll hear what you NEED to hear whether you like it at the time or not. Sometimes even when you seek out help, you won’t want to listen, but it’s important that you try and just the fact that you made the effort to do so means there’s hope for you yet. And don’t say that you will be inconveniencing your friends or family or that you would be shaming them. Even when they are at their maddest with you, they would never want to think of a world without you or one where they could have helped you. And if you really need someone, there are dozens of help lines set up to cater to these very private and sometimes uncomfortable moments. I have used these lines myself and I feel no shame about it. And if you can’t do that, trust me when I say that 911 is there to help in case of emergencies and that mental health issues are taken very seriously (being brought to hospital twice in the back of a cop car from calling them and asking for help is proof of that).

When it comes to finding an outlet, I mean always finding one thing to do every day that makes you happy. It doesn’t even have to be a hobby or a craft or anything like that. Even if you have to schedule it, take the time out to listen to some music, read a book, fall asleep listening to talk radio, go for a walk, sit in a coffee shop and people watch, drop it like it’s hot, run something up a flagpole to see who salutes it, it doesn’t matter. These moments are always fulfilling on even the shittiest days because you are the only one who controls them. Not someone else. You. And even in the craziest and darkest of days there will always be that one moment that you are the lord and master over, and those are the moments worth fighting for. Not every day will be a party and some days will be totally beyond redemption, but you have something uniquely yours and the only person that could ever take that away is you.

As for the listeners, the people a friend in need would turn to, I have some advice for you, too. The first being what I mentioned before: never tell someone things are going to get better. If you have ever been distraught in your life and had this told to you, I’m sure you’ll agree that it sounds incredibly stupid and hammy. Worst of all, it sounds like you are blowing them off. There’s nothing else that you could say that would sound more like “yeah, sucks that you’re sad, but my life is fine right now and I would rather get back to it.” It makes you not only a less than ideal friend, but in a lot of ways just a bad Samaritan.

The key to listening is shutting up for a few moments until you have something intelligent to say. Genuinely show an interest and pay attention to what the other person is telling you. Keep asking questions even though you might not get any answers. People will still generally continue to talk. Be light, don’t be dour. Share a cry if you want to. Just do something so they don’t feel alone. Don’t compare your experience to theirs if you have gone through something similar unless they personally ask for it. We’re all wired very differently and much like snowflakes, no two reactions will ever be the same.

And if you ever see the situation escalating and you become scared yourself, then call for help. And if you are on the other side of the equation and someone is telling you that YOU need help, well, that’s tough. I know I wouldn’t react very well most of the time, so I can’t tell you that it’s going to get better. I don’t know your situation. Just know that whatever is being said to you is being said out of love and respect by someone who wants to be there and wants to see you get better, get help, get rest, or find some kind of solace. You won’t see it immediately, but over time I hope it will make sense to you.

I still vividly remember trying to take my own life, and it’s so uncomfortable to think about to this day that I can’t believe I ever would have attempted it. I think of what I do now and how I actually have a job that I love after years of (admittedly continued) struggle, and I can’t believe I almost missed out on all of it. Do I still feel crippling pain, anxiety, and sadness that makes me not want to work? Of course. It’s not going to go away and there really is no cut-and-dry definition of what “getting better” means. If anyone tries to define it for you, they are a fool. Medications aren’t evil, and they can help greatly when needed. Talking to people is as essential as being a great listener to those around you.

And believe me when I say that I’m not an expert. These are just the things I have picked up that I know to be true through wresting with mental illness over the past 18 years of my life (probably more than that). It doesn’t make you less of a person to suffer from any kind of mental illness and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I’m kind of proud of my life up to this point for a variety of reasons. I do have some pretty great stories as a result of it. I now know when I need help. And best of all, I like to think it has made me a much better listener and a much better friend to those around me.

So if you know of someone who needs help, help them out by being there for them. If you need help yourself, please find someone, anyone who can at the very least talk to you. Be there for each other. That’s the best advice I can give.